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Swiss Stocks Rise as U.S. Confidence Rises, Mubarak Quits

Swiss stocks climbed as a report showed U.S. consumer sentiment improved for February and as Hosni Mubarak resigned the Egyptian presidency.

Zurich Financial Services AG gained 1.3 percent as Helvea AG raised its price estimate for the shares. Ems-Chemie Holding AG rallied 4.1 percent after reporting increased net sales. Basilea Pharmaceutica AG dropped 3.2 percent after analysts at Jefferies & Co. Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG downgraded the shares.

The Swiss Market Index, a benchmark of 20 stocks, increased 0.8 percent to 6,665.22 at the 5:30 p.m. close in Zurich. The gauge has risen 1.2 percent this week as investors speculated that the recovery in the global economy is strengthening. The broader Swiss Performance Index gained 0.8 percent today.

“Positive signals in particular in the U.S. should help equities to stay the course and withstand rising pressure stemming from higher interest rates, in particular in the emerging market arena,” said Franz Wenzel, chief investment strategist at AXA Investment Managers in Paris.

U.S. Consumers

Stocks rallied after a report showed confidence among U.S. consumers increased in February to the highest level in eight months, a sign falling unemployment and rising stock prices may be comforting households.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment for the month climbed to 75.1 from 74.2 in January. Economists projected the gauge would rise to 75, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.

As households, the largest part of the economy, grow more optimistic, consumer spending could help drive the expansion, supporting Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s testimony this week that “the growth rate of economic activity appears likely to pick up this year.”

Stocks extended gains as Mubarak stepped down as Egypt’s president and handed power to the military, bowing to the demands of protesters that have occupied central Cairo for the past three weeks demanding an end to his 30-year rule, according to a statement by Vice President Omar Suleiman in a statement on state television today.

“Markets have cheered Mubarak’s handing of power to the army in Egypt,” said David Jones, chief market strategists at IG Index in London. “Consensus seems to be that this will lead to a smooth transition of power.”

Zurich, Switzerland’s largest insurer, gained 1.3 percent to 267.90 francs after Helvea raised its price estimate for the shares to 280 francs from 265 francs.

Ems-Chemie increased 4.1 percent to 166.50 francs, the biggest gain since April. The maker of engineering plastics for cars and electronics said full-year earnings before interest and tax jumped 27 percent to 282 million francs from a year earlier while net sales increased 33 percent to 1.6 billion francs.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse lost 1.2 percent to 41.60 francs. Vontobel downgraded the shares to “hold” from “buy.”

Basilea dropped 3.2 percent to 74.75 francs, its third straight loss, after analysts at Jefferies and Credit Suisse revised down their ratings on the shares.

“Concerns regarding the future development of anti-MRSA ceftobiprole and outstanding Toctino risks could lead to underperformance,” wrote Philippa Gardner, an analyst at Jefferies.

Straumann Holding AG sank 2.2 percent to 236.60 francs. The dental implant maker was downgraded by Macquarie Group Ltd.

Clariant AG, the world’s biggest maker of printing-ink chemicals, slid 1.8 percent to 16.74 francs. The Muttenz, Switzerland-based company is preparing to bid for Sued-Chemie AG after examining the German chemical company’s books and is in advanced talks with majority owner One Equity Partners LLC, Handelsblatt reported, citing unidentified bankers.

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